A Slightly Smaller Mountain: Traveling with Less
“It’s not all going to fit,” I would exclaim as I stared at the back of the car in frustration. No amount of reorganizing would solve my game of trunk Tetris. Since having kids, we faced this problem whenever we packed the car for vacation. I don’t know if it was the extra snacks, or the bags of road trip toys, or the fact that traveling with small children seems to require a ridiculous amount of gear. Inevitably, we would be ready to leave and discover a mountain of bags and not nearly enough space in the car.
For this summer’s family vacation, I dreamed that I would be able to pack everything and still see out the back window of the car, a definite first for a McColgin family road trip.
Leaving a child or husband behind, along with their stuff, was not an option so I would need to tackle my packing problem with all requisite family members included. Adding to my packing challenge, we were staying with family for the first half of the trip, but traveling to a rental house for the second half of the trip, which required packing some additional items. Still, I was not deterred. This was going to be the vacation where I didn’t end up feeling like a pack mule as I hauled bag after bag from the car to the door.
The first change I made in my packing is that I decided, in advance, that all clothes and baby stuff had to fit in three suitcases. For other trips, I would lay out everything I wanted to bring and then start loading it into bags until everything was packed. I knew that in addition to our suitcases I had to pack a portable crib and stroller, a cooler, beach towels and toys, and my husband’s board games. Three bags would fill the remaining space. Second, everything had to be packed in something that could be closed, zipped and stacked. Rather than use duffels and open top bags, I tried to pack everything in suitcases and plastic totes. Third, I planned to do laundry. While I would prefer to have a laundry-free vacation, two loads of laundry is a small price to pay to make our travels less stressful.
I blocked out a full day on my calendar for vacation packing and preparation, knowing that when I try to pack for long trips last minute, I over pack and I’m not kind to my family. After I set out my three suitcases, I started packing with the following things in mind:
Best-case scenario. We were always going to be 10-15 minutes from a store. If I needed something, I could go out and buy it with minimal hassle.
When in doubt, leave it out. I asked myself, “Do I need this?” If the answer was “I might if…” then it stayed at home.
Don’t duplicate. Just one swimsuit, belt, dress, pair of pajamas etc.
Consolidate: Examples: Rather than packing an entire package of snacks, I put snacks in smaller containers. All of the board game pieces were packed into three board game boxes and four board games boxes were left at home....thanks for the help babe!
The following day, I piled our slightly smaller mountain of stuff beside the empty car, and for the first time in a long time, I ran out of stuff before I ran out of space. As we pulled out of the driveway headed toward our super-sized family adventure, I looked in the rearview mirror, and to my surprise, I saw daylight!
Now that we’re on vacation, I don’t miss the things I thought I might need and I’m going to have to go to the store and buy more formula for the baby, which is going to be ok. We’re making memories, and there is less stuff to keep track of along the way.
Photo by: Bethany Shaw